“Saddle, Sled and Snowshoe”

English: John McDougall
John McDougall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Christmas dinner 1864, prairie style: buffalo boss and tongue, beaver tail, moose nose, wild cat, prairie chicken, rabbit, and pemmican.” The menu was left in the writings of Methodist missionary, Reverend John McDougall, whose place in Canadian history ranks with some of the greatest western pioneers. He realized that the future of the western plains lay in agricultural development, not in fur-trapping.


John McDougall was born at Owen Sound, Ontario on December 27, 1842 He was educated at Cobourg, Ontario, until his missionary father, Reverend George McDougall, took over a post at Norway House at the north end of Lake Winnipeg. Young John spent a good deal of time teaching young Indians and learning their language. He was also a good athlete, and so he volunteered to paddle the canoe when his father decided to visit the missions which came under his responsibilities. It meant a journey as far west as Fort Edmonton. When they arrived, John McDougall knew he had “come home.” There could be no other place in the world for him but that region, and he established a mission at Victoria, 90 miles northeast of Fort Edmonton.


In order to get supplies it was necessary to travel to Fort Garry. On the trail, McDougall and his helpers camped one night with another group that were moving west. There was a good deal of banter about athletics, so it was decided to have a track meet the following day. John McDougall won all the races and the stone-throwing contests in what must have been the first athletic contest in Saskatchewan.


There are dozens of stories about the McDougalls in Saddle, sled and Snowshoe and Fifty Fighting Men by Grant MacEwan.


One of stories is about John McDougall’s toothache. It was torture but there was no dentist within 1,000 miles. Every possible remedy was tried, even applying a red-hot iron (yes, you read right!), but there was no relief. Finally Reverend George McDougall made forceps from a pair of pincers and tried to pull out the tooth. After five tries, it broke off at the gum, leaving painful roots still in the jaw. John McDougall’s toothache lasted until he could get to a dentist while on a visit to a dentist while on a visit to eastern Canada … nine years later!



  1. I like the idea of small posts on Canada’s historical characters, and will be checking out more of the same on your blog. Thanks for liking my post on Media Concentration.


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